This might seem like an odd question. Who’s in charge of your life? Who tells you what to do? Who says which choices are valid, and which are silly or self-indulgent?
On the surface of it, if you’re an adult, there’s probably no-one standing next to you and telling you exactly what you should be doing. But many of us have ceded control of our lives to someone else.Often unconsciously, we’ve taken on their values, even their likes and dislikes, and we’ve made them their own.
Do you ever feel that you “should” be doing something that you aren’t? Why? Is that impulse really from within you, or is it from your family, friends, or the society around you?
I’ll take you through some of the common people who we put in charge of our lives – and I’ll show you how to make sure the right person is in charge!
So, who’s controlling how you live your life? Is it…
Now, if you’ve left home, you might think that your parents don’t have any control over you any more. Well, they don’t have legal or physical control – but they can still be a huge influence.
Here are some typical ways in which people let their parents stay in control of their lives. Are you falling into any of these patterns?
- Taking a college course that your parents wanted, rather than doing what you want
- Going into the career that your parents recommend for you, instead of following your dreams
- Seeking parental approval and resisting making choices which might upset or anger your parents
- Ditching a partner who your parents don’t approve of
- Bringing up your kids in the way which your parents suggest
If you think your parents are having an undue influence on the way you live, then remember that you’re an adult. If you’re dependent on them for finances or other resources, start working to become independent. Your parents probably do want the best for you – and even if following your dreams leads to some initial conflict (mine were a bit shocked when I quit my job to freelance!) you’ll find that they’re often even more proud of you for striking out on your own.
How often are your choices dictated by your friends and colleagues? Again, you’ll want to give this some thought – it isn’t always obvious. But your peer group can be a huge influence on:
- How you spend your money – perhaps you all buy lunch out each day, or you end up getting a new phone just because all your friends have one
- How you spend your time – what group activities do you engage in? Are these meaningful to you – or would you rather do something else?
- Whether you drink too much, overeat, or smoke. We often match our behavior to the people around us: statistically, if you have overweight friends, you’re likely to be overweight too.
I’m certainly not suggesting that you should ditch your friends. Rather, you should start standing up for what you want to do. Think about your own values. If you’d rather spend less, drink less, party less (or do all of these things more!) than your friends, then you need to give yourself permission – no-one else is going to. True friends won’t care, they’ll celebrate your differences. And false friends will drop away.
Sometimes, the people controlling our lives aren’t even people we know. They’re media moguls, or celebrities, or journalists. They might even be bloggers or a particular community around one of your hobbies.
When society’s in control, it can look like this:
- You often buy products because you’ve seen them advertised
- You feel pulled in several directions at once – you’re trying to follow conflicted messages
- Some of your choices feel like they’re “wrong”: you might even remember a specific article or TV program which made you feel that way
- The thought of following a different path to most folk (perhaps working for yourself, or traveling the world, or homeschooling your kids) is almost unthinkable – you can’t imagine it working
We’re all social creatures, and it’s natural for us to look at what other people do to figure out what works. But don’t get caught up in the herd. You’re a unique person, with your own skills, talents, likes and dislikes. The world can’t decide what’s right for you – only you can do that.
Finally, maybe you’ve already got it sorted, and you’re fully in control. Or perhaps you’re definitely on the road to being there. If so, congratulations! Here’s how things might be for you:
- You can enjoy activities which others might find boring, strange or silly
- You don’t have to spend money to be happy
- When you do spend money, you make conscious decisions about what will make you happy
- Your life is designed the way you want it to be
- You don’t feel under pressure to keep doing more, or earning more
- When you have a new idea or want to do something a bit different, you go ahead and do it even when you’re worried what other people might think
So, who’s in charge of your life? Do you need to make some changes?.